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Asbury Park, NJ City Guide

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After several years away from the Shore, Kate Achille recently returned to her roots in Monmouth County. The resident marketing and creative lead for The Devon Group, Kate joined the agency in 2012. A history buff with a Master’s degree in Historical Studies, her work as a historian appears in the recently published Encyclopedia of Military Science. She is also a certified Pilates instructor who spends her spare time taking on new adventures, playing with her dog and working on her 90-year-old house. Today Kate shares with us a guide for the small, seaside hamlet of Asbury Park, NJ she calls home. –Stephanie

Read the full guide after the jump…

Asbury Park, NJ City Guideall photos by Kate Achille

Be sure to check out this Google Map with all of the below listings!

Boardwalk
The cultural center of Asbury Park, the Boardwalk area has legendary locales including The Stone Pony, Convention Hall and Madame Marie’s, in addition to these spots.

STAY
The Empress Hotel opened in the 1950s as a family hotel adjacent to the Boardwalk. Today’s Empress is clean and kitschy and caters to a more diverse crowd of beach-goers. The hotel features 101 rooms, poolside tiki huts and the Paradise Nightclub right downstairs.

DO
The Silver Ball Museum is every pinball wizard’s dream come true. Open 7 days a week, Silver Ball features hundreds of fully restored vintage pinball machines and other arcade games available to play. Buy an unlimited pass for all-day fun or take a break from the beach to play by the hour.

Just off the Boardwalk on 4th Avenue, the Asbury Lanes is part music venue, part bowling alley, part dive bar and all around a raucous good time. Under threat from area developers, it looks like the Lanes’ days are numbered, so check their website for event info on when they’re open. It’s worth it.

SHOP
Inside the Grand Arcade at Convention Hall there are a bunch of little shops worth checking out. There’s a fun house offshoot of Shelter Home, Greetings from Geralyn, Criterion Chocolates and more. It’s a good place to pick up some interesting souvenirs, too.

EAT
Serving up Neapolitan-style pizza and more, Porta is a good place to join a few friends for brunch, dinner or what’s betweener (seriously, they offer a betweener menu). Order a salad, split a pizza and have a drink before heading back towards the Boardwalk.

DRINK
If you’re an animal lover or a music lover, definitely check out the Wonder Bar. This Asbury Park mainstay welcomes bands all year round and hosts Yappy Hour six nights a week in the summer. Drinks are reasonable and the vibe is casual.

Head down the Boardwalk and up to Watermark for upscale cocktails overlooking Asbury and the Atlantic. The drink menu is lengthy and organized by alcohol; most cocktails run upwards of $10. In the off-season head inside and stay warm and cozy by the fire.

Asbury Park, NJ City Guide

North Asbury
The sleepy north end of town is full of big beautiful houses, tiny parks and, lately, lots of spaces under development.

STAY
Offering year-round lodging, the Hotel Tides is a small boutique hotel in a mostly residential neighborhood. This little gem features one of the finest restaurants in town as well as a bar and lounge open Wednesday through Sunday. There’s also a spa and an outdoor swimming pool that opens to the public in the warmer months.

DO
The North End Beach at 8th and Ocean is the area’s de facto surfing and dog beach. In the off-season dogs can run free along this stretch of the shore but in summer months, Fido’s fun is limited to the early morning hours. Either way, the northern beaches in town tend to be less touristy and more remote.

For history buffs and literary enthusiasts alike, there’s the Stephen Crane House on 4th Ave. Crane spent his formative years in Asbury Park way back when before penning The Red Badge of Courage. More recently, the Crane House appeared on an episode of Ghost Hunters and hosts the Asbury Park Historical Society’s monthly meetings and special events.

SHOP
Open Wednesday through Saturday from 10 a.m. – 4 p.m., the Coastal Habitat for Humanity Re-Store is a treasure trove of lightly used vintage furniture and housewares alongside the occasional new item. Prices are reasonable and the store accepts debit and credit cards.

EAT
Walking into Frank’s Deli & Restaurant at 1406 Main Street is like taking a step back in time. The old-school diner proudly serves classic breakfast and lunch options at reasonable prices and still displays its original menus on the walls. Think greasy spoon and expect a no-frills experience in a crowded dining room. Frank’s is renowned for its homemade corned beef and remains cash only.

DRINK
Billing itself “The Gay Cheers of Asbury Park,” Georgie’s is a friendly little dive bar tucked away between Main and Memorial. There’s karaoke, dancing, darts, live music, an outdoor space and more. The food’s not bad either.

Asbury Park, NJ City Guide

Main Street & West Side
Encompassing a large part of town, Main Street and the West Side are full of little shops, stores and places to explore mixed with residential and municipal spaces.

SHOP
If you’re looking for fun on two wheels head over to Second Life Bikes, a community bike shop that specializes in mechanically refurbished rides. Area kids are encouraged to put in 15 hours of time in exchange for a bike of their own to rebuild. Score a sweet ride at a fair price and give back to the community.

EAT
Start your day off right at The Chat & Nibble with pretty much anything off the menu. There are typically several different eggs Benedict dishes on special as well as a few seasonal specialties (think Stuffed Dulce de Leche French Toast or Pumpkin Pancakes). You pretty much can’t go wrong.

If you’re in the mood for Mexican, stop by La Tapatia on Main Street. Good for groups, the portions are huge and you can order margaritas by the pitcher. Order up El Molacajete Tradicional or Vegetariano to eat, it does not disappoint.

DRINK
Located across from the train station, Johnny Mac’s has 16 beers on tap and offers free pizza every day. Heavily decorated with a small sidewalk area outside, Johnny Mac’s is always happening with tons of events from speed dating to skeeball. On Sunday mornings they offer free omelets and $3 Bloody Marys and Mimosas.

Asbury Park, NJ City Guide

Downtown
These few blocks are jam packed with bars, cafes, restaurants, bakeries, bookstores and a ton of great shopping. There’s a lot to do and see.

DO
Into the weird, off-beat or occult? Even if you’re not, don’t miss the Paranormal Museum that’s adjacent to Paranormal Books & Curiosities on Cookman Ave. Learn more about area ghosts, The Jersey Devil and a host of other spirits and beings for $5.

In the event of rain, catch a movie at The Showroom, Asbury’s art house movie theater. They screen lots of independent movies and host a ton of events with filmmakers, actors and film enthusiasts. If you’ve got time to kill before the movie, head next door to Cookman Creamery for a quick cone.

SHOP
Inside the Shoppes at the Arcade, located at 658 Cookman Ave, you’ll find a number of vintage and specialty shops like Junksnotjunk, midcentury modern and vintage finds, and ACD|WSH, wood sunglasses, watches and accessories. There’s no central directory anywhere online but just go and spend a few hours getting lost.

Offering carefully curated vintage pieces as well as custom handmade VLAD denim and accessories, Sweet Joey’s is a unique little family-run operation. Joey Pisch and his dad, Vlado, work together to keep the place stocked with comfy tees, custom totes and a whole lot of cool.

A newcomer on Bangs Ave, the Red Moon Life & Home Store carries small-batch accessories, paper goods, bath and body products and home items all made in the USA. Follow @redmoonap on Instagram to stay in the know about their inventory and pop-up collaborations with other local craftsmen.

EAT
A bright, airy space serving inventive vegan food, Goldie’s has a changing menu that is currently Mexican-inspired and features small plates, very small plates and side dishes. A sample menu item is the Papi Chulo, a tostada with fried maitake mushrooms, crumbled daiya, pickled onions and salsa verde. Be sure to ask about the $5 cocktail special, too.

DRINK
Make a stop at Bond Street for cheap beers served in mason jars and a punk-laden playlist blaring from the bartender’s phone. There’s usually a local beer or two from Kane and Carton on tap along with a specials menu, with food like pork roll fries, posted above the bar. Crowds up quickly at night so go early to score a spot.

Asbury Park, NJ City Guide

Notable Locals
There are a ton of people working to put the City by the Sea back on the map, these are just a few:

Kate Hiltz – Revered as a friend to most everyone she meets, Kate is best known for her work with Chunksaah Records and The Bouncing Souls (she’s the inspiration for their song “Kate is Great”).

Marilyn Schlossbach – Active community advocate and the powerhouse behind a number of vacation-inspired hot spots on the Boardwalk.

Joe Koukos – Proprietor of Holdfast Records on Cookman Ave. and sponsor of the Asbury Park Punk Rock Flea Market events.

Jenn Hampton – Between her work at the Lanes and Parlor Gallery, Jenn is a tour de force in the Asbury arts and music scene.

Bret Morgan – Serial entrepreneur and technology evangelist involved with Cowerks, Asbury Fresh, Bands on a Budget and the Jersey Shore Tech Meetup to name a few.

Bruce Springsteen – Because even after 40-something years, he’s still The Boss.

 

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17 Comments

Patricia

Love this feature on Asbury Park, Kate! I live two towns away in Bradley Beach and I love spending time in AP. Glad to hear that I have cool neighbors like you :) You hit all the great spots and some I have yet to try. Thanks!

Kate

Thanks so much for the kind words, Patricia! Agree it’s such a cool area and a great place to live.

Lynn

Thank you for this! I grew up in NJ but we never went down the shore…I always felt so out of it and would love to rediscover my home state treasures as an adult.

Mia

Grew up nearby. It’s great to see Asbury flourish and I hope the city finds a way maintain it’s quirky character, but still develop. I’d hate to see Asbury Lanes go; a student at a local high school made a short documentary about the place that makes me nostalgic: http://vimeo.com/82396288 Check out the Tent City in nearby Ocean Grove if you visit and stay weird, New Jersey.

christine

Love this!! You are a friend of friends so kudos for a great guide! I always want to head out to Asbury Park but get a little lazy since it’s a little further, but now I must definitely go as I have this perfect guide to all the cool things to check out.

Kendall

Great article. I live about a half hour away and I just had friends visiting from Philly, and couldn’t wait to show them around Asbury. I took them to Porta, Watermark for some sunset cocktails, and Kim Marie’s (which is fairly new and I don’t see listed here!) and of course the beach and boardwalk. It was a mini vacation weekend. Many people don’t realize how much Asbury has to offer!

tiffaney jewel

I’m so glad Asbury is back on the map. It’s still a high-crime city, so visitors should be be VERY careful with their person and personal belongings.

marilyn schlossbach

Thank you so much for including me!
My spots are Langosta Lounge, Libby’s Beach Shack, Pop’s Garage Mexican Cucina, Asbury Park Yacht Club and Lightly Salted Surf Mercado on The Boardwalk.
My other super wonderful adventure is Kula Cafe and soon to come Urban Garden on Springwood Avenue – West Side ( A non-profit Hospitality training cafe for your enjoyment!)
Muchas Gracias
Marilyn Schlossbach

Anna

Also not to be missed in the downtown area on Cookman Street: Twisted Tree Cafe for delicious and primarily vegan food, Exhibit No.9 – an amazing new art gallery right next to Goldies and Cafe Volan on Bangs street (near Cookman) for some of the best coffee in the land. So much more to do in Asbury Park, especially in this area and on the boardwalk.

Kate

All great suggestions, everyone! Frankly there was just too much to list – looks like we may need a part 2.

USA

Good stuff, but def missed Cafe Volan and Glide Surf Co. (www.glidesurfco.com // Alternative Surf Craft) on Bangs; and the new French restaurant across the street, Pascal & Sabine!

Natalie

I’m so glad you guys did this feature on Asbury! I’m from NJ & lived in Asbury for a time. It really is turning around & is a cool place to hang out.

Shellie

Junksnotjunk is the best vintage store I’ve ever seen! So glad to see Asbury on here. Favorite place in the world.

Geralyn Gray

Thank you for mentioning Greetings from Geralyn. Great job on a very informative guide to Asbury Park. I am in love with Asbury Park and having a store in Convention Hall. I grew up in Spring Lake and to see Asbury Park close to being in all it’s glory is a miracle. So glad to feel a part of it and feel the appreciation from visitors from all around the world.

Junksnotjunk

Junksnotjunk would like to thank you so much for the mention in this! It’s such an honor! We love Asbury Park, and we’re so glad we finally opened our shop there! For anyone interested, check out our Facebook page – https://www.facebook.com/Junksnotjunk for pics of our latest Mid Century finds and upcoming sales! :)

Ann

I love Asbury Park. I lived there for a few years ; but, moved to Brooklyn 3 years ago to be with my partner. I can not wait to get back there. I own a Mid Century modern condo with a spectacular ocean and lake view off the balcony and for all of you New Yorkers; you would die to hear the prices. Compared to NYC it’s still cheap as hell. And the vibe is friendly. We are shooting to move back next summer and I seriously can not wait. Lots of creative people in AP doing interesting things. And it’s just beautiful and quirky.

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